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How to Make Caramel Apples

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Caramel apples are an iconic fall treat! Drench apples in homemade caramel and decorate them with cookie crumbs, chocolate, nuts, or more caramel. Learn the step-by-step tips to make them from scratch and have them come out perfect every time.

Caramel Apples on wood boards

Caramel apples can be tricky. Sometimes, the caramel can be jaw-breakingly hard (like candy apples).

Other times, it’s is so soft that it drips off and becomes a big sticky mess.

The homemade caramel on these is just right – tacky but not drippy.

This recipe also avoids another common pitfall in that it’s not cloyingly sweet.

Ingredients

  • Apples. Because the caramel makes the apples so sweet, choose a tart apple such as a Granny Smith rather than a really sweet one. Save the sweeter apples for a Dutch apple pie!
  • Two kinds of sugar. You’ll need brown sugar and white sugar. Using brown sugar in addition to the white sugar gives the caramel a more robust flavor.
  • Sweetened condensed milk and light corn syrup. Both of these give the caramel the correct soft and sticky consistency.

Tools

  • A candy thermometer. The key to making perfect caramel is patience and a good candy thermometer. Without a candy thermometer, it’s very hard to get the texture of the caramel just right.
  • Sticks for the apples. You can use popsicle sticks, actual sticks that you find in the woods (clean them well), or purchase caramel apple treat sticks. Make sure the sticks are sturdy. You don’t want your stick to break and your apple come tumbling down to the ground.

How to Make Caramel Apples

Make the Caramel

Melt butter in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium-low heat.

Add brown and white sugar and corn syrup. You can also add spices at this time – I like to add pumpkin pie spice!

Stir regularly, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot, until the mixture begins to boil (about 30 minutes). Resist the temptation to raise the heat. The caramel can quickly burn, so I always suggest “low and slow” (lower heat for a longer time). Caramel-making time is a perfect time to catch up on your favorite podcast while gently stirring the pot.

Add sweetened condensed milk and continue to stir until the temperature on a candy thermometer reads 241 F. You can let it go all the way up to 248 F if you prefer the caramel to be really hard. I like mine to be solid enough to stick to the apple, but still soft enough to not break my jaw.

Remove from the heat and let the caramel cool for a couple of minutes.

Prep and Roll the Apples

While the caramel is cooling slightly, wash and thoroughly dry the apples and insert a stick into each apple.

Use the stick to roll the apples around in the caramel.

Dipping an apple in caramel

Toppings

There are so many different ways to decorate these treats. While they are still warm, you can roll them in:

  • graham cracker crumbs
  • sprinkles
  • chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, etc.)
  • granola
  • candy (like M&Ms or peanut butter cups)
  • chopped Oreos

Once they are cool, you can drizzle them with :

  • any flavor icing
  • melted chocolate (dark chocolate or white chocolate)
  • more caramel

Experiment and see what you like best!

Rolling a caramel apple in graham cracker crumbs

FAQs

Caramel Apples packaged in gift boxes

The Best Way to Gift Them

Place the apples on parchment or in a treat cup. They will drip while they are still hot. One way to handle this is to place the apples on parchment paper. A little pool of caramel forms under each apple and remains on the parchment when the caramel apples are removed and packaged.

Using treat cups, you can skip the parchment paper entirely. Plus, any caramel that pools at a caramel apple’s base becomes an extra treat for the apple eater.

Everything looks more professional when served in a fancy box. I suggest placing the treat cups into Wilton’s caramel apple gift boxes. The hole at the top for the stick to poke out of is too cute!

You can also easily wrap the cooled apples in their treat cups with cellophane or plastic wrap and tie with a ribbon for a sweet gift.

How to Store Them

You can make these up to two weeks in advance. Be sure to store them in the refrigerator.

Other Must-Try Apple Desserts

Did you make this recipe? Leave a review!
Caramel Apples
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4.68 from 40 votes

Caramel Apples

From-scratch caramel apples made with homemade caramel.

Course Snack
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Cooling Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 515kcal
Author Stefani

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 12 small tart apples
  • caramel apple toppings optional

Instructions

  • Melt butter in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium-low heat.
  • Add brown and white sugar and corn syrup. Stir regularly, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot, until the mixture begins to boil (about 30 minutes). Resist the temptation to raise the heat.
  • Add the sweetened condensed milk and continue to stir until the temperature on a candy thermometer reads 241 F. You can let it go all the way up to 248 F if you prefer the caramel to be really hard. I like mine to be solid enough to stick to the apple, but still soft enough to not break my jaw.
  • Remove from the heat and let the caramel cool for a couple of minutes.
  • While the caramel is cooling, wash and dry the apples and insert sticks.
  • Roll prepared apples into hot caramel and place into extra large baking cups or onto parchment paper.
  • Let cool for a couple of minutes and then decorate to your taste!

Notes

When you add the brown and white sugar, you can also add spices. I like to add pumpkin pie spice.
While they are still warm, you can roll the coated caramel apples in:
  • graham cracker crumbs 
  • sprinkles
  • chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, etc.)
  • granola
  • candy (like M&Ms or peanut butter cups)
  • chopped oreos
Once they are cool, you can drizzle them with:
  • any flavor icing
  • melted white or dark chocolate

Nutrition

Calories: 515kcal | Carbohydrates: 90g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 64mg | Potassium: 346mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 84g | Vitamin A: 659IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 127mg | Iron: 1mg
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